Tens of thousands of breast cancer patients could benefit from a new type of radiotherapy which would be delivered during surgery instead of them having to take a course of treatment. Intrabeam radiotherapy has been given a provisional go-ahead for NHS use by the health finance watchdog.
In draft guidance, the National Institute for Health and Care excellence (Nice) said the treatment option should be considered for people with early stage breast cancer. A single dose of radiotherapy could be more convenient for patients, Nice said.
Some patients have to make 15 trips to hospital for radiotherapy, but the latest treatment could be given during breast surgery, reducing “disruption, stress and inconvenience”, the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer said.
It said the “revolutionary” treatment would not only cause less hassle for patients but would save the NHS time and money.
“This is great news for early breast cancer patients due for breast-conserving operations,” said Sally Greenbrook, senior policy officer at the charity.
“Intrabeam is unique in that it is given during surgery, avoiding the need for weeks of follow-up appointments, and for many women this is all the treatment they need.
“As this is a new technology, patients will need to be made aware of the pros and cons before going ahead. While this is just an initial decision from Nice we look forward to their final decision which we very much hope will remain positive.”
Nice said that because the technique was new it was recommending its use in a “controlled way”, and that patients should be fully informed.
The draft guidance, which has been put out for consultation, stated that patients who had been given the treatment should be put on a national register, and called for experts to review the outcomes.
Professor Carole Longson, director of health technology evaluation at Nice, said: “With the Intrabeam Radiotherapy System only one dose is required. Regular radiotherapy typically requires numerous doses over a three-week period – although some people may receive it for longer – and is performed weeks or months after surgery or chemotherapy.”
Longson said that so far only six centres in the UK had used Intrabeam to treat early breast cancer – when the tumour is confined to the breast area and has not spread.